The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived – How A Wolf-Strangling Adventurer Can Show You The Way To Improve Your Life
No matter how much you think you’ve achieved so far, there are always going to be people who make you realize how little you have done with your life. Take Mozart, for instance. I’m 47 years old, so – to paraphrase Tom Lehrer – by the time Mozart was my age, he had already been dead for twelve years. A very sobering thought.
As stupendous as Mozart was though, there is one man who would make even him think to himself “Hmmm…I really could have done a lot more, couldn’t I?” Or whatever that is in German.
The man I am talking about is this man :
Peter Freuchen. The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived. That’s him on the left, obviously. That coat he is wearing is basically an entire polar bear skin. It fits him so well because he was six foot seven and built very much on bear like lines himself. Not that being enormously tall is an achievement, but there are a lot of very tall men who think it is and leave it at that as far as doing other stuff is concerned. Not Peter Freuchen, though.
As a young man, he studied to be a doctor at a very prestigious medical school in his native Denmark. However, by the time he was twenty , he thought to himself “This doctor thing isn’t working out. What shall I do? I know. I’ll move to Greenland and explore the Arctic!” And that is exactly what he did.
Peter liked Greenland. In fact, he liked it so much that he stayed there for twenty years. During that time he mounted several polar expeditions, proved that Greenland was not separated from the North Pole by a river, killed a wolf with his bare hands when it attacked him and married an Inuit woman. He became the first Western expert on Inuit language and culture, albeit accidentally.
When his wife died of Spanish Flu in 1921, the church would not allow her to be buried in their graveyard as she had not been baptized. Peter dug a hole in that churchyard himself buried her there anyway.
Peter nearly came to a sticky end in 1926 whilst on one of his innumerable solo dog-sledding expeditions. He got caught in a terrible blizzard. He upturned his sled and took shelter under it but there was an avalanche and he ended up buried under several metres of heavily packed snow. He knew if he didn’t do something pretty drastic, pretty quickly, that his time was up. This is what he did.
His impressive beard had frozen to the hardened snow. So he ripped it out by the roots in order to be able to move his head. After fruitlessly trying to claw his way out of the icy tomb, he had an idea. It was a totally disgusting idea, but it did save his life.
He shat himself, took the resultant faeces and fashioned it into the shape of a knife. When it had frozen hard enough, he used it to dig his way out. When he was free, he saw that his sled was smashed and that one of his sled dogs was dead but the other one was still alive.
He used the knife to butcher the dead dog, fashioned a makeshift sled out of its ribcage and, with the help of the remaining dog, sledged his way back to his base camp.
Upon his return to basecamp, he took off his boots and discovered that his toes had succumbed to frostbite and gangrene had set in. He amputated them himself using a hammer, a pair of pliers and a big dose of no anaesthetic. He eventually lost one of his legs due to this incident but he did survive to tell the tale.
He moved back to Europe and joined the Danish Resistance during the World War II. He thwarted several Nazi operations and became such a nuisance to the Third Reich that they ordered his execution. He was captured and, while he was under sentence of death, he rather predictably escaped single handed. Or single legged, if you wish to be pedantic about his amputee status.
Peter Freuchen, being Jewish, wasn’t very keen on Nazis. Hence his work with the Danish Reistance. Once, at a film premiere, he plucked Leni Riefenstahl out of her seat and twirled her about above his enormous head, laughing maniacally at her protestations. Yes, that Leni Riefenstahl. “Triumph of the Will” Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler’s favourite movie director.
The film that was being premiered, by the way, was written by and starred Peter Freuchen himself. It was based on his experiences in Greenland and was called “Eskimo”. It won an Oscar.
During his lifetime, Peter Freuchen was a Doctor, Artic Explorer, Husband, Father, Zoologist, Anthropologist, Journalist, Actor and Author. He became close friends with many Hollywood stars, including Mae West and Jean Harlow.
He published thirty books, wrote countless magazine and newspaper articles and penned several notable scientific papers.
To top it all off, he became only the fifth person ever to answer “The $64,000 Question” on the television programme of the same name. He died of a heart attack, aged 71, three days after finishing his final book.
Now, I’m not saying that you should live your life like Peter Freuchen. He achieved a lot but it could be argued that he was not a polymath. Just a man with a very short attention span who couldn’t stick to doing one thing for more than five minutes. Plus he did die of a heart attack, although it’s amazing that a man with that much testosterone flowing through his veins didn’t cash in his chips before he was thirty.
I’m also unsure if he was possessed of any genius, in the way that Mozart undoubtedly was. I haven’t read any of his books or seen any of his films so I am unqualified to pass judgement in that regard. I do know one thing he was definitely possessed of though. Sheer, bloody-minded determination. Genius or not, it’s amazing how far it is possible to get on sheer, bloody-minded determination.
However much you may or may not have achieved in your life so far, there will be things that you need to do but can’t quite work up the will. You know exactly what these things are and you probably have a good idea how to go about doing them, yet still you don’t make a start.
If you are feeling reluctant and making excuses, remember this. If Peter Freuchen can carve his way out of an avalanche with a dagger made of his own shit, then you can do whatever it is you need to do. So just fucking well do it.
Copyright Michael Grimes 2016